Are You a Painted Barn or An Unpainted Barn?

Wintersong is taking a day off; here, in case you missed it, is a reposting of an item from May of last year.  


The way you answer the question, Which is prettier, a painted old barn or an unpainted one? would probably reveal something of your inner self I think. Dare I say that most people would probably prefer their old barn with a fresh coat of paint? I know My uncle does. When I was a growing up, his wife was the only woman who distinguished herself from the others in our family in two rather significant ways: claiming a career of her own (nursing) and wearing makeup. I remember a conversation we had many years ago when we were discussing something like how far women would or should go to attract and keep a man. In reference to his wife, he said that even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint. Reluctantly I agreed. Now I’m not so sure.

Until I moved to the southwest around 10 years ago, I didn’t even wear moisturizer.  I go back and forth between “a little”, a boost with cheek color and lipstick with face powder, but mostly I don’t like taking time to apply it properly. When I was in the 20s I had my face done professionally at a cosmetic counter in Macys and came out looking like a clown. Couldn’t wait to get home and wash it off. But, having passed a significant birthday of late, I recently peered into my large bathroom mirror and, like so many women who have traveled this road before me, I saw my mother looking back at me. Only my hair style, un-permed and professionally styled and streaked to blend the grey, reminded me of my old self, but the wrinkles and sagging cheeks and neck roll were all Mama’s, since I hadn’t bargained for any of those even though I accepted that I was getting older every year. (Beats the alternative, I keep reminding myself.)  

My mother worked hard, on the farm and at a few women-approved jobs such as mail sorting, retail clerking and assisting in the care of institutionalized children. Old photographs suggested that she had a brief pass at wearing lipstick–very dark lipstick painted like a Cupid’s bow on her small lips that movie star of her times, Clara Bow might covet. Sorry to say, she (my mother) looked terrible in makeup. All my grandmas wore their hair in buns throughout most of their lives and I doubt any of them wore anything more than a dusting of Pond’s loose face powder to take the shine off their noses when they went to church. My sister, now deceased, wore lipstick and powder during her teen years, but she was a natural dark haired beauty and soon reverted to “au naturel.” So you can understand that I never had real role models in applying makeup.

The thing I hate most about the way my face has aged are the droopy eyelids. They bother me so much that a few years back, when we were living in Las Vegas where youth and beauty rules supreme, I had the idea of using rubber cement to secure the excess lidfolds to the bottom of my brow area. (Well it worked on newsprint years ago when I worked on the school newspaper!) Before plastic surgery was so accessible actresses used a tape to pull and hold those extra folds up and to hide beneath their hair. So, carefully I dabbed a little rubber cement to the lower brow bone, then applied a little more to a portion of the excess lidfold below it, then lifted and pushed it back. Voila! It worked . . . until I needed to blink. I worked frantically to remove all the rubbery gunk off my lids, then had a good laugh and swore to myself I’d never tell anybody.

I briefly considered eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), but decided against it (too expensive & not covered by insurance) mostly because I want to be a good role model for aging gracefully for my two thirty-something daughters, just as the women in my family were for me. Besides, I think women get the short end of the stick in life too often as it is;  we should all quit trying to turn ourselves inside-out, hoping to be whatever society thinks we should be, so I guess I’m making a political statement too.

So there’s the question. Are you a painted old barn, or one you keep in reasonable repair but leave otherwise to age gracefully? Today I was browsing some online photographs and these two caught my attention. One was this painted barn. Yes, I think it’s very pretty, but to me it looks as though it’s trying to be a church–something it’s not. Then I found this unpainted barn. I’ve got to say, I really really like this one. I think I’m like this old barn. I still function and I think I’m still useful. I also think I’ll throw away all my “paint” and rubber cement! What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Are You a Painted Barn or An Unpainted Barn?

  1. i think i look weird in makeup. plus, i feel a little like my face is suffocating if i put something on. and what’s worse, it’s only a matter of hours before I get acne from makeup. once anita put some in a dot on my face in an experiment in high school, and sure enough, by the end of the day, it was a zit.

    Have you read Nora Ehron’s latest book, I feel Bad about my Neck”?

    ps. i keep waiting for your New York post!

  2. Indeed I did. Exactly as I described it here. It would have worked too, if I only didn’t need to blink!

    And the New York post is still stewing up there in my brain. I have to find the right angle but it shouldn’t be much longer. I have the title ( think!): New York, New York…still a helluva town.

  3. I love unpainted barns………so must be one myself. They are far more photogenic. Then again, all my friends have had something nipped or tucked about their faces. One even had their tummy lifted. I saw her point, but boy was that expensive. I’d love to have a chin again, but not at that expense. Ah well, reality is mine. 🙂

  4. I always thought my mother was naturally beautiful. She didn’t seem worried about her wrinkles as she aged so I try not to be too, although I notice there are more and more. My hands look older than my face. They have a lot of wrinkles and you can see the blue veins. My grandchildren are fascinated by them. More than one of them has commented about how old I am after they have rolled the skin around to watch the patterns they can make with it.

  5. Thanks so much for the note about dieting. I need to reduce my size before I fall victim to the family disease of diabetes. I’m nearing morbidly obese. Yes too, both G and I are being very sensible…..instead of a quarter cup of mayo, there’s a tablespoon of mayo on my noon sandwich. Instead of a giant sandwich, I eat half a sandwich. We have reduced the fruits we eat, but I think we are doing pretty well inching our way into better ways of thinking about food. I’ll write about this….later this week. Thanks for the article. I’ll find out about it.

  6. Thanks for the comment about smoking. Your experience with tobacco is amazing. And barns – I guess unpainted, maybe with old bits of paint left on here and there from years past.

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